Monday, November 16, 2015

Interview with Ian Corrigan of Vexx

I shouldn't have asked Vexx about what playing music in Olympia is like. I'm sure they get the question all the time - actually I'm certain because I read other interviews they did and, sure enough, that question popped up. As a city boasting bands that have seriously influenced my trajectory in music, such as Beat Happening, Christmas, Transfix, and Gag, Olympia is hard to avoid - it's a fixture in more than a few subgenres of underground music. Side note: Christmas was a band that played the Duke Coffeehouse and I have a vivid memory of all of us hanging outside Craig Layabout's house as they did a haunting, a capella rendition of Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." As absurd and myopic of an experience that that was, it was one of the first times I realized independent music was more than an auditory intake. Strangely enough, Pat from Christmas is now 1/2 of The Pen Test  - Robert Manis, who started Moniker Records, put out their LP Interstate a few months before I joined as label partner. Small world.

But it's also just a setting. It doesn't define Vexx as people are as a band. And, really, when you get down to it, what one descriptor can define anything in the scope of four individuals? Objectively it's impossible. Subjectively there's room to play. A standout quality of Vexx is their energy - a set is inspiring in its commitment to performance and its tightness. Mary Jane Daphne, backed by Corey Rose Evans, Ian Corrigan, and Mike Liebman, is an electric revelation who basically gets a full day's exercise done in twenty minutes. The band as a whole revel in pop songwriting, two or three minute bangers that roll around the cranial cavity for days.

I've only seen them in a bigger crowd at Berserktown in LA, which was a phenomenal set, albeit a far cry from the D.I.Y. shows that litter the results when you search "Vexx band live." So far they've put out a couple of cassettes, a 12" originally on Grazer Records, and a 7" on Katorga Works.

I reached out to the band via e-mail and got to ask them a few questions.

Jordan Reyes: Tell me a little bit about Olympia. There's a lot of independent music history from there with K Records and Kill Rock Stars - does that continue to have a big influence and impact on the city?

Ian Corrigan: I don't really know, it always will be to people who live outside of Olympia, but I don't think it is that relevant for people making music right now. We just tracked our next record at Dub Narcotic, which is associated with K. 

JR: Obviously punk is an important part of ya'll's lives. Was there a specific thing - an event, a band, a book, or a person - that made it so?

IC: I think we're all into high energy music that clocks in under 2-3 minutes, expressing a concise performance and not letting people think about it too much during the performance, being overwhelmed by energy. I think, for me, it was watching a show and not getting tired while the band is playing. I think there are few long format bands that I'd ever like to see live. 

JR: Do you think punk ideas like commitment to independence and artistry have become more or less important as music has become more easily available through the internet?

IC: More important. I think it will always be important to me, having a strong opinion about curating your look and sound so it speaks to who you are and what you're accomplishing is always going to be important. 

JR: I always ask this question, which I'm sure you get a lot, but are there any particular bands from Olympia you'd recommend to readers (read: people like myself) who don't know that much about what's going on in Olympia?

IC: Defaceman is a trip, Alice Wynne's art and poetry is inspiring. I don't know if they have any releases other than a tape right now. Underpass, CC Dust, and Broken Water are great. 

JR: What do you think makes a song or an artist compelling?

IC: I don't really know until I see it or feel it live. Music being a performing, visual, and recorded art makes it difficult to be timeless and timely. I believe honesty, vulnerability, aggression, confusion, and beauty are things that I look for when listening to or looking at art/music.

JR: Also, who did the art for the 7"? I can't stop looking at it!

IC: Aaron Kaneshiro 

JR: Do you all have any plans to record or put out an LP any time soon?

IC: We’ll have Another EP in the next year. 

JR: When you guys go on tour, what do you generally listen to or read? Are there any "staple Vexx listens" for the van?

IC: Coil, The Troggs, New York Dolls, Obituary's live album dead, UFO, the Kinks, Strawberry Switchblade, Neon Judgement, acid house, new beat etc...

JR: How easy is it to do the "necessary" amount of touring for you guys? Does it ever become difficult?

IC: We did it this year, 2015. We did a northeast tour, a full European tour, and a west coast tour. It is really difficult; it puts your life on hold, but it is worth it for the wealth of experience that you get from it, personal and performance. 

JR: Hypothetically, would you tour if you could live off record sales?

IC: Yeah, live performance is unparalleled in my day-to-day experience. 

JR: What all is in the future for Vexx?

IC: I really couldn't say

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

IC: Always remember to do the dishes

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Release of the Day: Treasure Teeth - Transatlantic Consultant/Romantic Impulse

“Schizoid” is an umbrella term. It often demands the connotation of being split, heterogenous, or uncertain, though as a word derived from, and permutated to encompass, mental illnesses, “schizoid” can describe someone or something aloof, dissociated, withdrawn, unable to form warm relationships, or one affected by schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. As a descriptor, it can be used in tracing a fractured human, city, idea, theme, ethic, or one characterized by malaise and apathy.

Throughout “Thought Forms In the Mouth,” Treasure Teeth manipulate and distort the innocuous phrase “All my friends care for me” into beautiful and monstrous renderings, backdropped by layered, percussive synthscapes. As much a celebration as a perversion of intent, the moment is indicative of the band’s Gestalt narrative. A person is bombarded by sentiments and interaction, at times personalized and at others clinical, which may appear friendly, unique, and, above all, genuine, but may not be. A person is expected to respond to it all, while also digesting each stimulus.

Treasure Teeth’s double EP Translatlantic Consultant/Romantic Impulse on Other Electricities is, above all, a meditation on duality. While side one maintains a hold on pop songwriting, side two is more experimental and instrumental. It’s an effective way to bring the listener a taste of the band’s expertise in journeying, evocative mood. Side two boasts both songs with vocals and entirely instrumental pieces, one of which is a live recording from Miami Music Club “Banana,” exhibiting the elements of improvisation that make up an important part of the live Treasure Teeth experience.

So perhaps “schizoid” only partially applies to Transantlatic Consultant/Romantic Impulse. Far from being apathetic or standoffish, Treasure Teeth is a band at ease with its many sounds and structures. It couldn’t be compared as much to multiple personality disorder as to diffracted light. As light enters and exits a prism, or light-dispersing object, it multiplies into many-colored offspring, nature’s choose-your-own-adventure book; and while the symptoms or progeny of diffracted light are manyfold, each is true to the original source.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Release of the Day: Round Eye - Round Eye

 Shanghai’s Round Eye is a true freak’s dream - half punk, half noise, half jazz, and half bad math. As much from the school of Albert Ayler as the Boredoms, the Flesh Eaters, or the Residents, Round Eye is chock full of audacity and ability. On their self-titled LP, the band proves its ability to go from interesting to compulsively important in the span of a couple minutes, and let’s be honest – these cats are fucking great on their instruments. While Round Eye clearly pulls from an improvisational tapestry, their album is hypercomposed, moving along as though some mutant opera with clearly-defined suites and moods that rear their ugly, or occasionally staggeringly beautiful, heads to the listener. A lesser band would be out of its league, but Round Eye dual wields a strange restraint alongside its bombastic energy and volume.

On track two, “Street Light A,” the band begins with the free jazz instrumental with which the listener may seem somewhat familiar from track one, but when the vocals hit, it’s a free-for-all. This is where Round Eye lets the listener in on the program for the evening, so to speak. From this point on, the defined chaos meanders from punk bangers like “City Livin” to instrumental landscapes like “HeSheRoshima,” all the while maintaining a consistent hold on its unique voice and backdrop.

This is boundless music, perhaps wearing influences, but certainly casting off any and all shackles. Stream it below!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Interview with Luke Wyatt of Torn Hawk and Valcrond Video

Torn Hawk is a Luke Wyatt solo venture, one of many. Never one for stagnation, Wyatt's career has been characterized by prolificacy, having released about a dozen records under his shape-shifting, guitar and synth Torn Hawk moniker in the few years of its existence. But that's not even half of what he's had his hands in throughout those years, when you look at his various guises, collaborations, and label output.

The idea of "collage" is important when taking in the scope of Luke Wyatt's work. Luke's artistic work draws from all media, visual, auditory, or other. Olfactory? Only time will tell. If you ever get a chance to see a Luke Wyatt interview, you might be surprised by his absurd, comic candor. For a man who makes instrumental music, he sure appreciates the finer aspects of breaking a fourth wall or uttering a non-sequitur, all the while demonstrating a manic my-tongue-can't-keep-up-with-my-brain-ness to his audience. Luke's got a lot on his mind - mental miasma basically bubbling at the surface, trying to burst - and sometimes it splatters onto a slab of wax, and sometimes onto a VHS, and sometimes into a word-salad interview. Regardless of the method of information relay, it is most likely worth your time.

When I approached Luke about the interview, he wanted to focus on his label, Valcrond Video. 2015 has been a good year for him, having put out records by Helmer, Body Tools, and Burns & Hawk, though the label has been active since 2011 or so, starting by releasing Luke Wyatt projects before expanding to other artists.

Jordan Reyes: You began your label Valcrond Video back in 2011, releasing your own work. How was the transition from working on your own terms to taking in the consideration of other artists?

Luke Wyatt: I don’t worry about other people.

LW: If any of the artists give me any shit about not listening to their views, I provide their current address to the IRS. All the guys on the label are tax fugitives to some degree.

LW: That’s what binds the artists on the label together, really. Tax non-compliance.

JR: Sad Stonewash - A Video Mulch was the first release you had for Valcrond Video, right? Was it also the first thing you released musically?

LW: Well that was a DVD release, it was a way to get my own video work out there after having worked on the PPU Video Party DVDs. But I slapped my music on there as well. 

LW: SS was the first Valcrond release, but not the first thing that was released with my music on it. I was in some groups with other people, and had some solo CDRs, all of which should be on Discogs,  but most are not because the guys doing one of the labels are lazy or clueless. But nice guys. Or one of them is. 

LW: I also did a soundtrack for a health & safety video my friend made for a trucking company. That shit is classic, if anybody can find a copy, let me know PLEASE.

LW: Anyway, I’d consider most of that stuff (except for the trucking thing, which was very evolved) to be juvenilia  even though I was over 40 at the time. 

LW: 15 years on, looking at Alec Baldwin, Barack Obama, and other of my supposed peers, I have to worry about the state of this nation. Not enough of these guys are doing yoga ! I’ve been doing yoga for 9 years, and 55 has never looked better.

JR: Was there any learning curve for you doing the label? I have to think that the move from CD-Rs and DVDs to vinyl had to have been a bit of a challenge.

LW: I don’t learn anything, I just try to force action in the way a toddler stuffs as many things into their mouth as they can, big things, dog toys, flip flops. I just gobble things up and my fly-like saliva breaks them down into manageable mush.  

JR: Was there any label or person or even idea that was particularly inspiring to your work in Valcrond Video?

LW: Jose Canseco. To spell Canseco, you have to spell the word “can”. 

JR: How do you decide what gets to be released on the label? Are there ever cases when someone sends something in or do you always know the person?

LW: I only deal with people who are single-minded, driven. If anybody has a valid driver’s license, owns a home, has a kid, or more than $800 in their checking account, I am not working with them.  I’m looking for real focus here. 

JR: You recently released the Burns & Hawk 12". I know that you two played together in Circuit, Burns & Hawk before, but how did you and Willie Burns decide to do this release?

LW: I decided to make something out of some jams Will and I did, and he sort of shrugged and let it happen.  

JR: You also just put out the Roccale 12" by Helmer. How did you and DP get in contact and decide to release this?

LW: Helmer is a close chum from the NY area. He was a bouncer at a strip club I used to go to; I felt bad for him sitting out in the cold, hard, stark concrete landscape all night looking at gross guys come in and out. I’d bring him a hot meatball hero once in awhile. He’d warm his hands on it, then swallow it in one bite by unlocking his jaw like a big snake. Then he’d let me into the club for free. Often he would pass me CD demos of his lame-ass music— such crap. The CDs would end up on floor of my car and would be useful when I was looking for a surface to snort drugs off of once in awhile. I happened to actually listen to one the CDs eventually— this is when I was stuck in a car wash, with sudsy water covering the windows and doors of the car, suds and streaming water becoming my whole world— and this particular CD wasn’t quite as lame as the rest. I decided then and there to put it out.  

JR: What all is coming up for Valcrond Video?

LW: The first Body Tools 12” just came out. 

LW: I’ve also got a couple unknown freaky teenagers from Paramus, NJ, they make some real shitty house music, I am excited about them. One of the guys is called Garbagepale. Such an evocative name, I think. 

JR: What would be your dream release if time and space were not considerations?

LW: “Time & Space”, the debut EP from Dream Release.